DIY Concrete Door Stop & Containers

If you’re Pinterest-obsessed like me, you’ll have seen the thousands of concrete DIY projects floating around the internet off the back of a now very popular trend.

So I’ve timidly dipped my toe into the pool with a nice and simple quick-make concrete door stop. This came off the back of finishing a bar of soap-on-a-rope and a need to save a nice chunky piece of rope from the bin.

Now, I didn’t want to go and mix up a batch of concrete for just one make, so I figured while I’m at it, I’d throw in a few concrete containers too.

We’re keen recyclers in our house, so I do usually have a good little treasure trove of packaging and such I can dip into which certainly delivered for this project. 

The Kit:

LASTIC POTS

  • A selection of clean plastic pots in different sizes. You’ll be cutting these open, so don’t use anything you want to keep.
  • Cement and something to mix it in. The amount depends on how much you plan to make. 
  • Sandpaper. 
  • A mixing stick, or in my case an old pencil.
  • Some tape and some weights to hold down your inside pots. I used coins, but pebbles or small stones would also do the trick.
  • Rope. Alternatively something strong like wide ribbon or an old shoelace would work nicely too.

 

The Process:

As with any project, start by preparing a work area. I had a big sheet of plastic handy from a new mattress I’d bought, but you could use a dust sheet, bin bags, newspaper or an old bed sheet to protect your surfaces/floors.

Then, arrange your pots. For the doorstop, you’ll be filling just one pot so that’s nice and easy, just check your rope will fit well in it. But for each of your containers you’ll need two pots in different sizes so that one can sit inside the other with enough room to create a decent thickness of concrete around the side – too thin, and it could be a bit fragile (as I learnt from the pots on the bottom-left).

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Mix your cement using the instructions that come with it. The amount you need will of course depend on how many items you are making, but if in doubt, allow for a little extra just in case. Go slowly and avoid ‘beating’ it (like eggs), as you don’t want bubbles.

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Then fill your pots. Be careful to pour directly into the centre of each one to avoid mess on the sides of your pot, otherwise you’ll have extra sanding to do afterwards to get rid of it. Don’t overfill your container pots either, because it’ll just spill over the edge when you push your smaller pot into the centre. If you did get bubbles during the mixing process, try (carefully) tapping your pots of the floor to knock the bubbles up to the surface and out – this should also help level it.

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If you’re making a doorstop, now is the time to put your rope in. Line it up and press each end into the cement with your stick/pencil. You want to make sure that you have a decent amount of rope under the surface on both ends to make sure it’s secure when it dries. Be careful when lining it up and pushing it in, as you don’t want to have to pull it out, or move it about too much once in – you’ll get your rope covered in cement and have a hell of a clean up job when dry. My rope was luckily stiff enough to stand by itself, but if you have gone for ribbon or a shoelace you might want to hold it up. I would use a bit of string underneath the ribbon and taped down on the outside of the pot. Using a stick to hold it up could work, but you risk it rolling and moving, or it might just hold it too high all together.

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For your containers, you need to press the small pots into the centre. Once you’ve placed it, you’ll want to weigh and secure it down while it dries. Make sure you don’t press to deep as the bottom of your pot will be too thin, and be careful to line it up correctly so it’s symmetrical. This is why I used coins (or small stones/pebbles) rather than one single stone, as you can add/remove weight as needed to hold it in the right place. Once you’re happy it’s sitting right, tape down both sides to keep it level and centred. Check your cement instructions for drying time.

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Once dried, remove everything, leaving just the cement. Be careful doing this. The cement will be stuck to the plastic pots, so you’ll likely need to break them, leaving sharp bits of plastic exposed. I used pliers to snap the tougher plastic, but the thinner pots I was able to bend and free by hand.

Sand everything down to give yourself nice smooth edges, and paint/decorate to your taste.

I left the door stop plain, and created some geometric shapes on my containers using masking tape and spray paint.

The Result

The doorstop turned out perfectly, I love it!

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As for the others, one container was too thin, so didn’t make it through the finishing process as it was too fragile. The other two were okay, but I don’t think they looked as crisp as the doorstop, so they’re something I’ll need to come back to and try again.

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DIY Mosaic coffee table

If you’re the superstitious type, you could say that finding a new purpose for an accidentally smashed mirror could be a way to turn around a 7-year fate of bad luck. Now, I’m not superstitious, but when life gives you lemons…make a mosaic coffee table.

The mirror had been given to me by my parents. Not so much a hand-me-down in the sense that it had been in the family for generations, but it had certainly been a staple feature of their hallway when I was growing up. So, when it inexplicably fell and smashed (seriously, it was sitting where it had sat nicely for a year, then just fell!), I felt oddly reluctant to get rid of it. All I could salvage was the frame with it’s backing.

I’d already been thinking about starting a mosaic project, I just hadn’t worked out a way to round-off the edges of a mosaic piece to a standard where it wouldn’t look unfinished as a table. My now large and empty frame seemed like an ideal solution.

As with the majority of DIY projects I take on, I like to keep it to a low budget, so re-use whatever I already have at home wherever possible. Now, I know you may not have the same just lying around, so I’ve tried to offer cheap alternatives where I can think of them.

What you’ll need:

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  • A frame – local charity shops tend to have outdated art you could take a frame from, or check the freebies section on Gumtree (a haven for budget DIY-ers).
  • Supporting board – I used a panel from an IKEA wardrobe we had taken apart, but a sheet of ply or MDF can be cheap and cut to size at your local B&Q.
  • Strong glue/’no more nails’ – I already had some wood glue in the house, but you can pick it up pretty cheap from most hardware stores.
  • Screws and screwdriver– 2 types for screwing the board to the frame and the legs to the board. The first type should be long enough to go through your board and into (but not through) your frame. For the leg screws, these should be long enough to go through your leg and into (but not through) your board so that they don’t poke through and interfere with your mosaic. The number needed will depend on the size of your project.
  • Table legs – I already had some industrial-look hairpin legs from a previous DIY coffee table that was now too small in a bigger flat. The set of 4 cost me about £30 at the time. But on a smaller budget, I would look again to charity shops or the freebies on Gumtree and see what’s on offer that you could pinch legs from.
  • Tiles – The ideal would be using anything you might have left from a bathroom or kitchen fit, but I didn’t have any. Instead, I used the cheapest packs available in B&Q plus a few individual test tiles to use as accent colours, ringing in around the £40 mark all together. You could make this significantly cheaper by using just the value £5 packs of 25 if you’re happy with having fewer colours to play with. I actually ended up with too many, so can use them again for future projects. Just remember that if you’re mixing different types, they’ll work better if they’re the same thickness (this was a big learning moment for me that I didn’t consider when buying and would have made mine much easier).
  • Hammer – For smashing up tiles.
  • Grout – I got both black and white grout, and a rubber grout spreader from B&Q also. White to use as my ‘glue’ for sticking the tiles to the table as it’s cheaper, then black to fill the gaps as I like the look it gives.
  • Resin – Avoid art suppliers for this as you’ll pay through the nose. I got a litre of polyester resin for around £15 from a specialist fibreglass retailer in Glasgow. They’d advised me that this would be better for my project than epoxy as they thought epoxy would just yellow. However, I disagree. I ended up trying both, so see below for my learnings here, but long story short I’d recommend GlassCast Epoxy.
  • Pencils/chalk & a ruler – To mark up your design.
  • Dropcloth/old sheet – To protect the floor (plastic backed would be better when it comes to pouring the resin).
  • Duct/strong tape, spirit level and respirator – Needed for the resin pour

 

Supporting the frame

Before you can do any mosaicing, you’ll need a strong and sturdy foundation. If it’s not already, trim your piece of supporting board to size. You’ll want it to be a couple of inches smaller than your frame so it’s not too visible side-on. If you want to varnish or paint this, I’d do so before attaching to the frame. I was being lazy, so didn’t bother since you can only see it when you look underneath the table.

Once you’re happy with size/colour of your board, you’re ready to attach it to the back of your frame. I used a combination of both strong glue and screws. Lay down your frame and board face-down. Cover the back side of your board in glue and turn over onto the frame so that they stick together evenly across the full surface. Then secure them further with screws use screws, being careful to screw only into the wood and not through the thin backing of your frame – you don’t want any screws poking out when you’re trying to stick tiles down.

Finally, while you’ve got everything upside down already, screw your legs on to the corners of the supporting board (now attached to your frame).

Carefully flip the whole table back the right way up, and if needed, add some weight across the frame to hold it down while your glue dries (I just used the grout and tiles). Most glue takes at least a few hours to dry, but there’s plenty you could be progressing while you wait.

Creating your mosaic

When the glue is dry, you can draw out your design. I couldn’t quite find one that worked for what I wanted, so drew up my own straight onto the frame. However, in the process of searching I did narrow down a bunch of stained glass templates that would make for great mosaic table designs if easier.

I drew mine up in chalk pencil (it’s easier to see) and coloured in the sections so I could plot which tiles would go where before having to place them. Then you’re ready to go. Safely smash up your tiles – use a towel or similar to cover them first – and place them down to make sure everything fits. I found this the most time consuming since it’s a bit like doing a jigsaw with no picture. When you’ve worked out where everything is going, start gluing. It’s easier to do this in batches, with one section of the design placed and glued before moving on to the next. If you’re using a large pot of grout like I did, you might want to scoop some out into a tupperware to work from rather than risk the rest of the pot drying out while you work.

When all your tiles are placed, glued and have dried you can work in the rest of your grout. This is a pretty messy process, and you’ll need to sacrifice a cloth or two to wipe down your tiles, but its satisfying when you get it done!

Pouring the resin

Because I was pregnant during this project, I had to leave the actual resin pouring to my partner (please avoid working directly with resin if you’re pregnant, especially if using polyester). So I can’t claim all the credit for this part and wasn’t in the room to take pictures, but did leave strict instructions and have included our learnings all the same.

As mentioned above, when speaking to a specialist supplier in Glasgow, I was advised that Polysester Resin would be better to use than epoxy for this type of project, their main reason being it wouldn’t have the yellow tint that epoxy can sometimes have. I’d never used polyester before, but had worked with epoxy at uni, so could agree that in some cases it does turn yellow. That was reason enough for me to trust their advice and we went with polyester. Now, having tried it, I can confidently say DO NOT use polyester resin. It takes an age to dry and the chemical smell it emits is incredibly strong and does not go away. We even left the table outside for 2 weeks and it still wouldn’t budge. In the end, we ended up adding a layer of Epoxy resin over the top to try and seal in the smell, which actually worked. Now, if I were to do this again, I’d use GlassCast resin from the start. It dries relatively quickly, clear and has only a slight smell that goes away once it’s cured. Lesson learnt!

To do your pour, make sure you have your work area protected as if you spill resin, it isn’t coming out again. You need to ensure your project is completely level, as resin is a self-levelling substance, but that doesn’t mean it won’t slide on a slant! Use your spirit level and prop up corners with books/coasters as needed to ensure your surface is completely flat.

Then mix your resin according to the ratio in the instructions. Mix slowly so as not to beat in any bubbles, but do give it a good solid 3-5 minutes of stirring to ensure the hardener and resin are completely blended. Don’t get lazy at this point, if they’re not totally blended, the mixture might not set and you won’t be able to fix it once on the table.

Then pour. I pour most of the mixture in the middle, but also a little bit in each corner. Then watch as the mix levels out across the surface. If needed, use your mixing stick to push the resin into areas if needed, but again, go slow and don’t work in bubbles. Then leave it to set. Each brand of resin will have a different curing time, so refer to your instructions and don’t be tempted to prod it before then. If it’s not quite dry yet, you could leave finger prints or other marks.

The result

The table worked out pretty well, and I’ve had lots of compliments on it. It works really nicely as a table, but make sure to use coasters under anything hot so as not to mark the surface.

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However, there are a lot of things I did wrong that meant this actually became a rather expensive project for me, when it really didn’t need to be! So, to keep this budget-friendly with a nice speedy turnaround, learn from my mistakes:

  • When picking a frame, the shallower the better so that you need less resin to fill it. If you do have a deeper frame, consider lining it with something like a sheet of plastic, or polyfiller before tiling. Cardboard might work, but might also be a bit too absorbent when grouting – maybe do a test piece first and see how the grout reacts.
  • When chossing tiles, make sure they’re all the same thickness. Again, this means you’ll need less resin to cover them if they’re all already at one level. It also just looks neater.
  • Avoid polyester resin. Unless you’ve got a work are outwith your house and don’t intend to actually use your table for a month or two, you’ll be much better off avoiding the stink with epoxy resin. However, look out for ones with good reviews about drying clear!

I’ll definitely be trying this again and will post about how round two goes when the time comes. In the meantime, let me know if you’ve tried a mosaic table and whether there are any further learnings you can share too!